State wants to add to list of endangered species


PRINCETON (AP) – The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife wants to add a dozen animals and insects including New England’s cottontail rabbit and an owl to the state list of endangered and threatened species.

Maine’s list, created by the Legislature in 1975, includes 49 animals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and insects at risk of extinction in the state. The last time it was updated was in 1997, when insects were offered state protection for the first time.

The state’s list is similar to the federal list with some notable exceptions.

For example, wild Atlantic salmon is on the federal Endangered Species List but not on the state list. Federal biologists contend wild Atlantic salmon on eight Maine rivers is a genetically distinct population, but the state disagrees.

On Wednesday, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Advisory Council recommended additions to the state list including the New England cottontail, the redfin pickerel and two insects, the Juniper hairstreak butterfly and the Rapids clubtail dragonfly.

The numbers of New England cottontail rabbits are on the decline in Maine, with only 300 of the animals remaining. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently conducting a survey to determine whether the New England cottontail deserves federal protection, as well.

And the great cormorant, which began re-establishing itself during the 1980s, is being threatened by another threatened species, the bald eagle, said George Matula, the state agency’s endangered species biologist.

The number of great cormorants has declined from a high of more than 300 breeding pairs in Maine to less than 200 breeding individuals, partly because of predation by bald eagles, Matula told the council.

The short-eared owl, meanwhile, has been documented to be breeding in only two locations near Cutler and Presque Isle.

Sally Stockwell, conservation director with Maine Audubon, said members of her organization are excited that state wants to update the list.

She said property owners should not be overly alarmed by the proposal. Projects can still move forward after proper review to ensure the species is not harmed or affected by the development.

“The list of threatened and endangered species is based on ecological criteria, first and foremost, and just because something is listed doesn’t mean that a proposed project can’t happen,” Stockwell said.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife plans to hold at least two public hearings next month on the proposals. The council will then draft legislation in time for next year’s legislative session.